I’ve lost track of the number of things that are more important than billionaires and millionaires trying to figure out the financial and health logistics of how to play sports in the midst of a global health pandemic, but in terms of distractions from the world around us the status of Major League Baseball’s season will have to suffice.
If there were hopes that a ticking clock on starting a season that has already been delayed by more than two months would nudge owners and players closer to an agreement, the opposite seems to be happening right now. Both sides appear firmly entrenched on a fundamental disagreement: players say they agreed to prorated salaries back in March; owners say those salaries must now be revisited because return-to-play proposals don’t include fans in the stands — and therefore far less revenue.
The latest proposal from owners has the scent of a classic wedge designed to pit players against each other. Basically, it asked players who make more money to take a larger percentage of the pay cut. It seems somewhat reasonable on its face — akin to taxing the rich more than taxing the poor — until you realize that it still adds up to owners who are far wealthier than players passing along what they say are financial losses to their labor.
Pitcher Trevor Bauer had an interesting tweet Wednesday about all of that, even if fellow hurler Max Scherzer (more on that in a minute) drew more headlines for his comment.
Tweeted Bauer: “Hearing a LOT of rumors about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs. If true — and at this point, these are only rumors — I have one thing to say … Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”
Scherzer, a Boras client when he signed a 7-year, $210 deal before the 2015 season, would see his salary dramatically reduced under the owners’ proposal. Scherzer released a statement on social media that read, in part: “After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no need to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. … We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.”
So where does that leave baseball, which ideally would like to start its second spring training in a couple weeks? Well, it sounds like players would like to address the issue of how to divvy up the diminished revenue by … creating more revenue?
Per ESPN.com: The Major League Baseball Players Association expects to counter MLB’s economic proposal by the end of this week with a plan that includes more than 100 games and a guarantee of full prorated salaries for the 2020 season, sources familiar with union discussions told ESPN.
The plan floated by owners is for an 82-game season. They’re reportedly worried that if they can’t jam the season in quickly, there could be a second wave of coronavirus that shuts everything down before the lucrative postseason.
Fun times, right?
I still think there’s a much better than 50% chance a truncated season happens, though my confidence level is lower than it was, say, two weeks ago.
The ultimate factor: There’s still revenue sitting out there, and the differences between the two acrimonious sides are different than they are during, say, a labor shutdown. Some sort of compromise feels within reach.
But until then, it will be more than fair to wonder if there will be a baseball season in 2020.